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Wilshere: ‘I had no choice but to leave Arsenal’

Midfielder to quit in search of ‘playing time’ after meeting with new Gunners boss Unai Emery

21 June, 2018 — By Steve Barnett

Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere says he has decided to leave after 17 years at the club. Picture: Антон Зайцев

WITH the World Cup in full swing, and Spurs striker Harry Kane firing England to victory over Tunisia on Monday night, the barrage of news coming out of Arsenal has somewhat been overshadowed.

This week the exit door at the Emirates has been in full spin with a number of key departures, none more notable than that of Jack Wilshere.

After an extensive meeting with new head coach Unai Emery, Wilshere confirmed on Tuesday that he will leave the club when his contract expires on July 1.

In an emotional message on Instagram, the 26-year-old cited the fact that his game time would be “significantly re­duced” as the key factor to him ending his 17-year love affair with Arsenal.

“Following a number of extensive conversations with those at the club, and in particular a recent meeting with the new manager Unai Emery, I felt that I was ultimately left with little choice but to make the decision that I have due to purely footballing reasons,” Wilshere ex­plained.

“As has widely been reported I, along with my representative, have been in talks with the club for a number of months with the view to signing a new contract to extend my stay at the Emirates.

“My intention throughout these discussions has always been to remain an Arsenal player. I have been on the books at Arsenal for 17 years and have always felt part of the fabric of the club. Such was my desire to stay that I had in fact agreed to sign a financially reduced contract in order to commit my future to the club.

Bernd Leno. Picture: Granada

“However, following my meeting with the new manager, I was made aware that although the reduced contract offer remained, it was made clear to me that my playing time would be significantly reduced should I decide to stay.

“I am sure everyone can understand that, at this point in my life and career, I need to be playing regular first-team football and following my meeting with Mr Emery I came away with the feeling that it would be very difficult for me to do so at Arsenal.

“Given this, I feel I have no option but to pursue other opportunities in order to progress my career on the pitch.”

Wilshere, however, hasn’t been the only departure. Many of previous manager Arsene Wenger’s first-team coaches have also moved on, including former Premier League-winning goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, fellow coaches Neil Banfield, Tony Colbert, Gerry Peyton and Boro Primorac, and the club’s head of medical services, Colin Lewin.

Emery, meanwhile, has confirmed his coaching setup for next season, with Juan Carlos Carcedo joining Steve Bould as one of two assistant head coaches.

The rebuilding work on the pitch is also well underway, with Arsenal announcing the signing of Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno on Tuesday.

After completing a deal reported to be worth just over £19million, the 26-year-old, who made more than 230 appearances for Leverkusen and has won six caps for Germany, said he was “happy and proud” to join Arsenal, and that he was looking forward to starting the season as a Gunner.

Leno is the second player to arrive this summer following defender Stephan Lichtsteiner, who joined on a free transfer from Italian champions Juventus earlier this month.

Arsenal have also agreed a deal for Borussia Dortmund centre-back Sokratis Papastathopoulos, with the transfer expected to be formally announced on July 1, and are closing in on Sampdoria midfielder Lucas Torreira.

The Gunners have reportedly offered £26.4million (30m euro) in instalments for the 22-year-old, rather than paying his £22million release clause up-front.

Sampdoria president Massimo Ferrero said yesterday (Wednesday): “Torreira left for 30m euro. I bought him from Pescara when no one believed in him. We placed a bet and we won, paying just 3m euro.”

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